Drafting, Tanking & Rajon Rondo: A Chat with Mark Cuban


Earlier last week, ESPN’s Zach Lowe sat down (virtually) with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban to discuss numerous topics surrounding the Mavericks, Shark Tank, and other business endeavors.

On “The Lowe Post” podcast, Lowe chats with a relaxed, Laguna Beach-ridden Cuban as he answers questions on the Mavericks questionable draft history, the Rondo/Odom debacles, and finally explaining the tanking comment he made prior to losing out on DeAndre Jordan. The following are some excerpts from the conversation in regards to the Dallas Mavericks, along with my personal analysis afterwards.

LOWE: “Do you feel like you haven’t taken enough care or emphasis on the draft and does that change now?”

CUBAN:“When you’re in a win-it-now mode, it’s a totally different perspective. You know, do I want DeShawn Stevenson on my roster or do I want the 25th pick in the draft? DeShawn helped us win a championship. In every other sense of the word, he’s a role player. It just depends on where you are in your life cycle. Do I want to save that roster spot for a second-round pick I’m going to develop or do I want Peja Stojakovic hitting six 3s against the Lakers in the playoffs? There’s the uncertainty…”

Jun 25, 2015; Brooklyn, NY, USA; NBA commissioner Adam Silver addresses the crowd before the first round of the 2015 NBA Draft at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Cuban’s response is a testament to the times they have dropped out of the first round to save cap space and a roster spot for a role player that can help them win that year, thus making a lot of the criticism unwarranted.

He also goes on to mention how they packaged picks together to send to New Jersey for Jason Kidd, who obviously led the team to their first NBA title. One of my favorite portions of the draft conversation is when Cuban goes in detail on the 2000 draft class when they owned the 12th pick, while also buying two other first round picks.

As Mavericks faithfuls remember, they drafted Etan Thomas, Courtney Alexander, and Donnell Harvey. So when we all talk about draft picks, as Cuban said “There’s the uncertainty…”

LOWE: “Would you have actually tanked?” (in response to Cuban saying previously they would have tanked if they missed out on DeAndre Jordan)

CUBAN:“Tank is all relative, right? Because in the Western Conference, you can really play hard and do your best and still be in the lottery. So the whole concept was, if we didn’t get Wes [Matthews], if we didn’t get a key free agent and D-Will [Deron Williams] in this particular case among others, what would have been the best strategy for us?

If you would have asked me last year, I would have said you do whatever you can to make the playoffs no matter what, and that’s the path we’re on now. But had we not gotten these two key guys, I had looked at it and there were fewer teams that were bad. And when there’s fewer teams that are bad, it means you can still strive forward and try to do well and still not win as many games and still be in the hunt for one of those top draft picks.

I guess metaphorically speaking, yeah, we would have tanked, but in reality, it would have been a completely different approach than the teams that have been vying for top picks have been doing. It would not have been a race to the bottom.”

I never was in favor of this Dallas Mavericks team tanking this year; with or without DeAndre (Lannister).

There were two simple concepts that went into that opinion: the financial sacrifice that Dirk has made to be competitive in his last years and the historically bad draft class coming up this next year.

The concept of the Mavericks tanking a whole season (hoping to land a top 7 pick so it doesn’t go to Boston) in one of Dirk’s last years to get a Jakob Poeltl sounded like fingernails on a chalkboard. Lowe and Cuban took a few moments to talk about the difference in rebuilding in the Western Conference compared to rebuilding in the Eastern Conference. Cuban jokingly mentioned how if the Mavericks were in the East, all they would have to do is throw pieces around Dirk to get to the Eastern Conference Finals each year….can anyone say LeBron James?

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  • LOWE: “Wes Matthews, just got a massive four year, fully guaranteed deal from you. Everyone trouts out the horrible track record of guys coming back from achilles, but there haven’t been a lot of under 28, under 29 guys on that list. The recent guys are Billups, Brand, and older guys. Wes and Brandon Jennings are going to be very interesting cases. So tell me like, how do you evaluate that?”

    CUBAN: “We have doctors.”

    Mark Cuban defines savage. Cuban obviously goes on to say more about the medical process, but news sites and blogs across the country have hammered the Mavericks in their decision to give so much money to a guy coming off a ACL tear.

    There is obviously some risk, but we would be naive to think that Cuban and the front office did not do their due diligence with doctors before handing out the money to Wes. Cuban also goes on to talk about how he is funding a medical research project on the use of HGH on muscle retention for ACL tear surgeries and the advancement the medical field has made in the sports world over the past years. In Cuban we trust.

    LOWE: (In deciding to trade for Rajon Rondo) “You knew the spacing would be difficult, you knew it would kind of make the pick-n-roll machine that you had, the spacing, it would kind of infect that a bit. So what was that debate like? Was everyone on board by he end? Was there a hold out among the coaching staff?”

    CUBAN: “Everybody went back and forth 100 times. There was no 100 percent, yeah, let’s all go do it. Everybody changed their mind 50 times. At the end, it really came down to a coin flip more than anything else. And the coin flip was as much about, is there going to be anything else that we could do? Because we knew we had to do something. But that’s the way it all worked out, and what’s done is done. No hard feelings.”

    Mar 10, 2015; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo (9) during the game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

    I love Cuban’s honesty in regards to their indecision on the Rondo trade. Some owners or GM’s just feed you the junk and say everyone was on board 100%, not Mark Cuban. In the conversation before this on the podcast, Lowe and Cuban talked collectively on the risky moves for Lamar Odom and Rondo, ones that didn’t work out.

    Cuban was quick to remind him of the different outcomes when they took the risks on Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse, and even Monta. Sometimes you have to take the risk knowing that not all of them are going to work out. Even looking back at the Rondo trade, the Mavericks traded two bench contributors and a draft pick for a guy who was considered a few years ago a top 5 point guard in the league.

    I found it interesting how the coin flip was really based on if there was going to be anything else later on. That they were going to make a trade no matter what. After seeing young point guards such as Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Knight get traded at the deadline, this puts a more sour feeling toward the Rondo deal. But the past is the past and I don’t think anyone expected the Carlisle/Rondo combo to be the foreshadow of Meek and Drake.

    LOWE: “Are we entering the golden era of officiating? Is it better? Are there still just massive issues?”

    CUBAN: “There is still a lot of room for improvement, but I think transparency makes a huge difference. I think, the biggest change that is going to happen, that Adam [Silver] has really started to push through, is recruiting and training.

    I remember back after 2006 when I was going bananas, it was really the only time I was looking at selling the team. Sitting town with them and showing them a list, at that point and time, where all of our recent refs over the previous ten years have worked at prior to coming to the NBA. They were all from two conferences. Southern, or whichever conferences had Belmont, two really tiny conferences.

    Turns out, the then Head of Officials, Ronnie Nunn, was the Head of Officiating in those two conferences. So we had this back scratching arrangement which nobody knew existed. Since that time, we have started to make headway in better recruiting of officials. “

    Jan 31, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Dallas Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle (left) talks to referee Tony Brothers (25) during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game at Amway Center. The Mavericks won 108-93. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

    I love good NBA stories like this. We always hear of good NBA gossip from different sources, but listening to Cuban tell this story makes you wonder even more on what all else goes on that we do not know about. I am glad that Silver has started to put an emphasis on this as we all know there needs to be improvement across the board. So does this mean we can take Dwyane Wade’s 97 free throw attempts back from the 2006 NBA Finals?

    The interview as a whole is not just for any Mavericks fan, but for NBA fans as a whole. In reference to the NBA, they go on to discuss more on officiating and rule changes that both of them would like to be changed.

    The last portion of the podcast deals directly with his television show “Shark Tank,” while also breaking down his new social media app called Cyber Dust. With the obnoxious, basketball Cuban aside, we see his brilliance personified in these business conversations. As the podcast ended, I found myself saying…

    Mavericks fans across the nation should be grateful to have an owner such as Mark Cuban.

    Listen to the full podcast here.

    Next: Mavericks Reserves: Who is the best of the bunch?

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